PESHAWAR: As fruits and vegetables from Afghanistan are in short supply, their prices have gone up here and in other parts of the country.

During a visit to the vegetable and fruit markets here on Wednesday, the traders told Dawn that the prevailing uncertainty in Afghanistan had forced the local exporters of perishable items, especially fruits and vegetables, not to take the risk of sending goods to Pakistan.

They said the prices of vegetables and some fresh fruits like grapes and apples had doubled in Peshawar after the clashes began in Panjshir area of Afghanistan.

They said most grapes imported by Pakistan were grown in Panjshir, so armed clashes between the Taliban and other groups had led to a halt in their supply and those of vegetables.

The traders said Pakistan was importing cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, grapes and apples and their prices rose unprecedentedly during the last one week.

They said the rates of those items in Peshawar were somehow low compared to those in other areas of the country. The traders said the prices had increased due to higher transportation charges.

Traders say situation will improve after formation of govt in Kabul

“One week ago, the five kilogrammes bag of cucumber was easily available to customers at Rs300 but now, it is sold at Rs400,” trader Naseem Khan told Dawn.

He said the price of onion also increased from Rs200 to Rs300 for a 5kg bag and likewise 5kg tomatoes’ price also went up from Rs200 to Rs300 and even more.

Similarly, in the wholesale market, the price of 5kg grapes rose from Rs450 to Rs800.

The vendors said the price of apples also rose by at least Rs200 per 5kg.

All Pakistan Agricultural Produce Traders Federation (APAPTF) President Malik Sohni told Dawn that the situation would become normal after the passage of time.

He said currently, the Afghan exporters were not taking the risk to load trucks and trailers with perishable commodities due to uncertain situation.

He said the hike in prices of cucumbers and onions would persist until the local production arrived.

The federation chief said the prices in Peshawar markets were low compared to those in other parts of the country, including Islamabad, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Hyderabad and Karachi.

He said the prices of those items were reasonable in Quetta due to short distance from Afghanistan via Chaman border.

“The exports of vegetables from Pakistan to Afghanistan have also dropped due to uncertainty in the neighbouring country,” he said.

He said the season of mango exports was almost over but some vegetables like bitter gourd, bottle gourd and lady fingers were still exported.

When contacted, another leading businessman and former vice-president of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi, expressed the hope that the Pak-Afghan bilateral trade would improve following the formation of an interim government by the Taliban in Kabul.

“We are fully hopeful of an increase in Pak-Afghan trade as the interim setup has been announced and the government departments will soon start functioning,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan were reduced due to the closure of banks in Afghanistan and as the financial institutions resumed normal operation, exports would also recommence.

He appreciated a decision take by the new Afghan administration about the clearance of more than 5,000 empty containers being held in Khwar Maidan area of Afghanistan.

“Around 150-200 empty containers are coming back to Pakistan on a daily basis and the backlog of stuck containers will be cleared soon leaving a positive impact on regional trade. Mr Sarhadi said businessmen were hopeful of betterment in trade between the two countries after the return of normalcy in Afghanistan and interim government began functioning.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2021

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